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How to Be a Good House Guest
When you're traveling, hotels and lodging are a major expense! If you're lucky enough to find a family member, friend, or acquaintance to stay with, make sure you prepare to be a good guest with these simple tips!
First, take the short quiz below to see what kind of house guest you might tend to be. That should give you a good idea of the areas you might need to work on before you bed down at a friend or family member's house.
Then, review my Top 3 Houseguest Rules, and if you are truly determined to be the best house guest you can be, read my more detailed tips on house guest etiquette, also found below.
What kind of house guest are you?
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Top 3 House Guest Rules
- Pay your own way. Never allow your hosts to pay any of your food, drink, or travel expenses. They're already providing you a free place to stay. You should also contribute monetarily to the host's expenses by treating them to a nice dinner out or doing a grocery shopping trip for them, especially if you are eating and drinking their food.
- Lend a hand. This isn't a hotel where housekeeping is included. Clean up after yourself and contribute to the household chores during your stay. Keep the space they've provided you neat and tidy, and always strip the sheets off of the bed (and offer to wash them, if there's time) before your departure.
- Say "please" and "thank you." This may sound obvious, but it's easy to forget these simple courtesies when your host makes you a drink, allows you to use the laundry facilities, or helps you find your way around town. At the end of your stay, be sure to tell your host what a nice time you had, or at the very least leave a thank-you note on your bed.
Keep in mind:
Even if you do not eat your host's food or drink their beverages, you are getting a free place to stay, with water, heat/AC, and electricity!
Good Houseguest Etiquette
- Book your stay. Make sure your hosts know exactly what your travel plans are: when you'll be arriving and when you'll be departing. If you are coming into town via plane or train, it's nice to forward your itinerary well in advance, and be sure to update your hosts should your plans change.
- Respect the space. If your host is putting you up in a guest bedroom (or has generously displaced one of the family members to allow you private space), keep it neat and tidy. Do not throw your dirty clothes everywhere thinking you'll clean up just before you leave. Put your dirty clothes pile out of sight, or pack an expandable bag in which to store them. Similarly, keep the bathroom clean and do not leave your toiletries out. It's fine to leave your toothbrush by the sink, but don't take up all the counter space with your hair and skin products! Keep them in a caddy or zip-lock bag and carry them back to your room with you after getting ready in the morning.
- Respect the routine. You may be on vacation, but chances are your hosts are not. Try not to disrupt their normal routine around getting ready in the morning, mealtimes, and bed time. You can always ask questions like "What time do you usually go to bed?" or "When would be the best time for me to take a shower?" if you're unsure, and your hosts will appreciate the consideration. Chances are, they will go out of their way to make things work out for you as well, but do not take it for granted.
- Offer assistance. Since your hosts have inconvenienced themselves to give you a place to stay (even if they're eager and happy to see you!), you should always be looking for ways to lighten their load. If they are providing you home-cooked meals, offer to help with the preparation. After dinner, don't ask if you can help with clean-up; instead, begin clearing plates without making comment upon it. You should insist upon washing at least one batch of dishes, even if your hosts assure you that it isn't necessary.
- Notice (and replace) what you use. Usually, your host will invite you to "help yourself" to whatever is in the fridge or pantry. That's simply polite, and shouldn't be taken literally. If you do eat from your host's stock, be sure not to take the last of anything, and to replace what you consume. Even if you are eating out, you should take into account the beverages and household goods (like toilet paper, shampoo, etc). Offer to do a shopping trip for your hosts at some point during your stay, and ask for a list of what they need. If you end up buying things for them that you did not use, remember that you are getting a free place to stay, as well as using their water, heat/AC, and electricity.
The Golden Rule of Houseguests
It may seem overwhelming when you think about trying to be the perfect house guest, but there is one simple rule to abide by that will help everything else fall into place:
Treat your host's home and family members better than you would treat your own (even if they are your own!).
If you remember this Golden Rule, chances are you'll show your hosts the appreciation they deserve, and be asked back to stay again!